Implementing Okta’s winning pre-IPO strategy



Summer 2019

Companies present different creative challenges that are dependent on their stage of development and industry position.

Pre-IPO companies need to get their communications organized internally. The company is operating on its strengths, but executives are not always able to precisely articulate the whats and hows—and especially the whys. It’s easier to get people to drink the Kool Aid if they know what flavor it is. Internal conversations are often siloed, or teams are speaking about the same subjects with dissimilar language. These brands need help figuring out their priorities so they can spread the gospel internally, and present a unified face to investors, peers, and new talent before they take on the world.

Post-IPO companies now need to send a cohesive message outside their walls, either to the public or B2B audience. Sometimes it’s their first time addressing the world at large. They need to carefully avoid just talking to themselves, while also implement a winning strategy for reaching their target markets in a fractious media landscape. The answer to their “why” question now shifts from “why do we do this” to “why should it matter to you, the potential customer?”

In the case of Okta, our initial project in 2015 was to help them define what they did to connect the world at large. Consistent uptime was a key promise. Four years later, uptime was seen as table stakes, and the conversation had shifted much more towards security. People on the inside admitted they had never considered Okta to be a security company, but market conditions had decreed they become one, and they had risen to the challenge. This was part of the evolving story that needed to be told. The 2018 project was seen as a “refresh” of the brand, a lighter-duty assignment at the outset, and it’s true, we did not make seismic shifts in the final messaging. However, the process of discovery was even more deep and involved, and we learned that while none of the original messaging was incorrect, many now felt it to be off-base, like an instrument that with time and use had gotten out of tune. Having been there since the beginning, we really had a sense of their brand as a living thing. This was an advantage as we were able to guide it in ways that were sometimes subtle, yet created greater clarity.

Knowing where your company falls in its development spectrum can define the angle of the problem and the path toward the solution.